Monday, May 28, 2007

Daily Flashback: Top 10 Songs that Ruled the World (1990-2000)

By Doug Branson

They ruled our world, they dominated our airwaves, and in their prime could have conceivably run for office and won. They were more than a sensation; they were an obsession. They are the songs that ruled our world.


1. How quotable is it?

You know you know every word to Living La Vida Loca. Admit It!!

2. How much was it overplayed?

You couldn’t turn on the radio for more than ten minutes without hearing this tune.

3. How much did it have to overcome to be popular?

These songs aren’t exactly Mozart or Beethoven but how much lyrical and rhythmic handicaps did the song overcome to still be a hit?

4. Intangibles

Making it on to a hit soundtrack or becoming a pop culture icon gets you extra points on this list.

5. Cultural effect

It isn’t always about being number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

10. "I Believe I Can Fly" R. Kelly

Reign: 1996 -1998

Why it ruled the world: 3 Grammys, listed in Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs, number 2 on the Billboard Hot One Hundred, number one in the UK, and it has been covered more times than we liked to share. But more important than all this, it was the biggest track on one of the greatest and memorable albums of the 1990’s: The Space Jam Soundtrack. Anything good enough to be a metaphor for MJ is good enough to rule the world.

Why it’s Tenth: While R. Kelly did inspire a generation to soar to new heights he would later go on to famously piss on that same generation, literally. Image problems have this song clinging to the bottom of the fiefdom.

9. "Gettin’ Jiggy With It" Will Smith

Reign: Spring to Summer of 1998 - 1999

Why it ruled the world: Good Lord, when your talking ruling the Nineties if you don’t include a Will Smith single you might as well burn the list. We could have put a number of songs in its place, Miami, Men in Black, Willenium, Wild Wild West…okay maybe not Wild Wild West. Point is “Getting’ Jiggy With It” is a symbol for the closest thing the Nineties had to a King of Pop.

Why it’s Ninth: This was his first hit single without DJ Jazzy Jeff producing. And while some may argue it was his best career move we can’t help but feel a little sorry for Jazz. For once it wasn’t Uncle Phil tossing him out the front door, it was his best friend.

8. "The Thong Song" Sisqo

Reign: Mid to Late 1999 into Early 2000.

Why it ruled the world: It was one of the last great rulers of the Nineties and while it didn’t really hit its stride until the new millennium we still thought it deserved to be on the list. It made wearing thongs not only acceptable outside of the bedroom it made middle and high school a completely different experience. For some unknown reason “The Thong Song” and the album itself became a make or break when it came to social status. Sisqo transcended black and white and taught us all a very valuable lesson: beautiful asses in skimpy thongs are colorblind. Whether you like it not “The Thong Song” reshaped our culture, our fashion, and helped a whole generation of middle to upper class white teenagers feel hip for a moment. For those reasons alone it ruled the world.

Why it’s Eighth: Sisqo has not been seen since. Any information on his whereabouts should be reported immediately.

7. "Living La Vida Loca" Ricky Martin

Reign: Late 1999

Why it ruled the world: Another late bloomer but it certainly took us out in style didn’t it. No Books-A-Million or Chili’s was safe from the rule of Ricky Martin’s ’99 hit. It’s catchy, exotic lyrics and sexy video made you really not want to believe anything you would hear about Ricky for the next couple of years. Number one in America for five weeks it not only made a superstar out of Martin but inspired a young William Hung to come out of his shell and finally pursue that music career that had alluded him so far.

Why it’s Seventh: It wasn’t attached to a movie like so many of the other songs on this list. A shame when you think about all the possibilities that Ricky Martin could have had on the big screen. Also, lyrics like “make you go insane” and “like a bullet to your brain” was almost self-prophesying.

6. "My Heart Will Go On" Celine Dion

Reign: Winter of 1997 - 1998

Why it ruled the world: It was the lead song to a movie that, if memory serves, did pretty well in theatres. It was ranked by United World Chart in 2007 as the 14th most successful song in music history. It made Celine Dion a mega-star. You simply could not escape this song or the movie. This heart wrenching ballad made even the strongest of men roll up their windows and crank up the Easy Listening station. And it arguably paved the way for other even sappier songs that were attached to tragedy movies. Any song that forces Aerosmith to make song for a movie about nuking a meteor did nothing short of rule the world.

Why it’s Sixth: It started out at the top of the list but as you will see it pales in comparison to the reigns of our to five. Sadly, this song went down with the Titanic. But not before raking in a lot of dough and sending Whitney Houston into a spiraling cocaine filled depression.

5. "Mmmbop" Hanson

Reign: 1996-1998

Why it ruled the world: Now we’re getting into the big boys. And no better place to start than boys who looked like girls. They made up a sound and turned it into a hit song about absolutely nothing. They started the bubblegum pop revolution that would continue into the millennium. It was number one in four different countries for several months and continues to be played today. Most importantly Hanson made a large group of male teenagers question their sexuality if only for a moment. You cringe when you hear it but you have to admit that we let it rule the world. MMMBop!!!

Why it’s Fifth: Unlike a lot of our contenders it couldn’t pull off a Grammy. If Homer Simpson gets a Grammy than this certainly should have. Unless the males on the voting committee were tricked into thinking they were attractive young females as well, that would make sense.

4. "All Star" Smash Mouth

Reign: 1999 and 2001

Why it ruled the world: You couldn’t escape this catchy tune in the summer of ’99 and how many movies was this song attached to? The answer, amazingly, is five. After hearing this song a million times in the Nineties we thought we had escaped the hole in the ozone layer once and for all. Instead this enormously annoying song re-appeared in 2001 on the soundtrack of the enormously annoying movie Shrek. If you didn’t own a radio and hated movies, don’t worry you probably saw this song performed live at the 1999 MLB All Star Game. Don’t like sports? It was also featured on the video game Donkey Konga 2. Blasting off into space to escape this song? Sorry, it was also the wake-up song on the space shuttle Discovery. Smash Mouth was the undisputed king of the late night talk show circuit, appearing on the Tonight Show a record four billion times. It even managed to get on a fake talk show, “The Larry Sanders Show.” Because of excellent managing, a TON of radio play time, and a Lazuras type recovery this song ruled the world. Let’s just hope it stays dead this time.

Why it’s Fourth: It cracks our top five because of its penetration of every conceivable market but it only reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 so it goes no further.

3. "Who Let The Dogs Out" Baha Men

Reign: The Year 2000

Why it ruled the world: Wow. Wow. Wow. No song on this list has the “Why did this song rule the world?” factor than this song. No other song had as much to overcome to be popular than this song. It truly is a masterpiece of marketing power and luck. It is the latest release of any of the songs on our list and it really did captivate a truly dumbed down society that was created before 9/11. The lyrics are atrocious and the beat is relatively simplistic. It makes Mambo No. 5 seem like Stairway to Heaven. Yet everyone from 6 to 60 wanted to hear this catchy tune. It was the age of the “Whassssup Guys,” it was a time where truly anything went with music. As long as it sold and caught on it held and the Baha Men held.

Why it’s Third: It wasn’t a huge hit and was the last to hold the throne. I refuse to believe that a song that consists mainly of a one word question could have the number one rule over the Nineties. But it did define our generation’s popular music and popular culture. We were Generation Y Not? and we got exactly what we deserved.

2. "Mambo No. 5" Lou Bega

Reign: 1999

Why it ruled the world: What was with 1999 and songs ruling the world? It was the end of a decade of ridiculous innocence after a decade of excess and no song represented that better than Mambo No. 5. It reached number 1 on the charts in the US, Australia, and the UK and stayed number 1 in France for a record 20 weeks. The song and its accompanying video swept the nation and eventually the entire continent of Europe. Everyone was reeling off the names of the women in Lou Bega’s life. Angela, Pamela, and Rita were just a few of the queens of a song that truly had the world ruling power that some of these songs are lacking in.

Why it’s Second: The scope of this song’s influence thrusts it into our top two but it was a remake of a song made in 1952 by Perez Prado. Plus, Lou kind of sold out by making remakes of the song for Disney and Warner Bros. For getting power hungry and outstaying his welcome Lou gets our number two spot.

1. "Macarena" Los Del Rios

Reign: 1995-1997

Why it ruled the world: The reason this list even exists is because of this song. The line at the beginning of the article “it is more than a sensation it is an obsession” was used to describe this song before the list was even thought about. A song that mainly consisted of lyrics in a non-English language spent 14 weeks atop the Billboard charts. It spawned a dance that is still being done on cruise ships around the world. It transcended music and radio overplay. By the time its reign was over this song made women and children weep and men gnash. It was number one on VH1’s list of one-hit wonders. Like “All-Star” no matter where you went you couldn’t escape this song: stadiums, grocery stores, clubs. I truly believe it was a few weeks away from becoming our new National Anthem. The singers weren’t attractive, the video was poorly done, and the song itself was mind numbing. But it captivated a nation with a booming economy and absolutely no worries in the world. If it were released today the world would have way too many other worries to even give this song another glance. But it came out at exactly the right time to absolutely, unquestionably, rule the world.

Why it’s First: Mambo No. 5 was arguably more musically successful but you can ask anyone on the street to do the Macarena and no matter where they are from or what language they speak they can do it, as long as they have no shame and a fetish for having things thrown at them in public. Not many people have any idea what to do with their bodies during Bega’s mega hit. This song has been inserted into the fabric of our culture. It is inseparable from the Nineties. And for a brief period in our history, sadly, it ruled the world.

Honorable Mention

"Believe" Cher

Any song off of Matchbox 20’s first album

"Smells Like Teen Spirit" Nirvana

"U Can’t Touch This" MC Hammer